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Germany moving ahead with smart meter rollout plans

In Germany, evolving energy policies and changing consumer preferences are leading to a fundamental shift in grid operations. Distributed energy resources (DER), including renewable energies, lie at the centre of this transition and are driving countries like Germany to explore integration solutions that can mitigate the associated disruptive effects.

Introduction

The development of smart grid infrastructure is critical for countries attempting to manage the transition to a decentralised and digital grid. In Germany, evolving energy policies and changing consumer preferences are leading to this fundamental shift in grid operations. Distributed energy resources (DER), including renewable energies, lie at the centre of this transition and are driving countries like Germany to explore integration solutions that can mitigate the associated disruptive effects. Deploying advanced metering infrastructure can be seen as the first step in this process, as it provides German energy producers and consumers with the requisite information for balancing the energy supply system while also establishing a secure communications platform for current and future smart grid technologies.

While Germany has made remarkable strides in its pursuits of renewable power generation, the country has fallen behind some of its Western European counterparts in the deployment of smart grid technologies, most notably smart meters. Up until now, Germany has been largely hesitant to install high volumes of smart meters, wary of the costs, technical challenges, and a host of data security concerns. After years of intense debate, the tides are now beginning to turn with the passage of the Digitisation of the Energy Turnaround Act in July 2016. This legislation establishes guidelines for Germany’s initial minimalistic smart meter rollout set to begin in 2017 and lays the groundwork for a new phase in Energiewende, the country’s ultimate energy transition.

Why implement smart meters now?

Driven by Energiewende, Germany has been progressively shifting its energy mix away from centralised generation and aims to fill 80% of its energy demand with renewables like solar and wind by 2050. This fundamental restructuring of the energy supply system can lead to a number of integration challenges – including voltage instability, bidirectional power, power quality, capacity constraints, over-utilisation (damage to existing asset base), and load levelling/peak shifting. Deploying smart meters can help mitigate these issues by establishing a secure communications network over which information on energy production and consumption can be shared. This dissemination of information can provide further visibility into the energy supply system and enables grid operators more flexibility in reacting to current grid conditions. This enhanced flexibility and visibility is a core element of effective DER integration and is central to Germany’s planned smart meter rollout.

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